For one thing, being on top of what's new and cool requires a certain amount of disposable income -- something absent from my life from about 1996 (the year I became both a mom and a homeowner).
It's not that I don't appreciate style. But my lack of funds contributed to my decision to stop paying attention to fashion. I dropped all my subscriptions to womens' magazines, because they only exist to sell me pretty products -- and why live with the frustration of wanting things I cannot (or should not) think of buying?
That doesn't mean I crawled under a rock and hid. We are on plenty of mailing lists, and influences got through in the form of catalogs, which explains why my living and dining areas look like a Pottery Barn showroom (on a good day, when I've bothered to declutter and clean).
Then, two years ago, we were forced to spend a boatload of time and money on a home renovation, thanks to the poria fungus that ate our hardwood floors and a portion of our kitchen cabinets. During this time, I picked up every catalog and magazine I could find for inspiration -- which is when I discovered the gorgeously photographed modern design at dwell.
Over the summer, the magazine held a big design show at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and invited members of the local mom blogging community to apply for press passes. As an admirer of the magazine, it sounded like fun -- and it was. Here are some very belated highlights:
This local married couple of glass blowing designers (who are also new parents!) are as adorable as they are talented. Some of the fixtures refract light in the most amazing ways.
I still need to add some kind of lighting component to my 90% completed kitchen (see those striped colored orbs in the background on the left? How awesome would those look above the kitchen island?) Something to think about.
The Amazing, Space-Conscious Eco-Fabulous House
An actual home plunked into the middle of the exhibit hall and auctioned off for sale on the Internet! The EcoFabulous House was 520 square feet of sustainability and pre-fab modernist design porn. And for one moment, it made me believe that I could live in a home like that... some day after my child has flown the coop. And only if my husband and I could get RID OF ALL OF OUR STUFF.
We have a hard enough time living within our current 1450 square foot home. I cannot imagine getting by on just a third of the space!
Note the space-saving location of the washer-dryer. On one hand, I don't think I'd like to share my bedroom with these appliances; I wondered how quiet they are when they run (i.e., would it impact my ability to do a load overnight)?
Then again - how efficient to just throw the clothes right into the wash, eliminating the need for a hamper.
Just a little smaller than the EcoFabulous House was a beautifully tricked out Airstream trailer.
Everything about its interior reminded me of the cabin we inhabited several years ago on our Alaskan cruise. Only ever so much cooler.
I could really envision the husband and me climbing into one of these and spending our golden years seeing the country. That is, if we could get it to look as cute as this one did.
For the first eight years of home ownership, we did not make many visible improvements to our house. That's not saying we didn't put money into it; just that the things we fixed were items that you'd never notice -- unless, of course, we hadn't made the repairs. (i.e., replacing a sewer line -- which cost a small fortune, replacing the water heater, replacing the heating/air conditioning).
We finally put our own style mark on the house in 2004: gorgeous, cherry wood flooring that ended up getting devoured by the poria fungus that entered our home through a crack in the foundation. After repairing the damage and sealing all the spots where the fungus could re-enter, we were advised to avoid using wood materials whenever possible.
So I have a personal interest in alternate building materials. I was especially impressed with something called Resysta, which looks just like wood, is water-proof, weatherproof... and is made of rice husks, salt and mineral oil. I wish we had known about this two years ago, when we ended up installing tile and carpet on our floor.
Kitchens and Bathrooms
The most interesting exhibits at the show were from the manufacturers of bathroom fixtures (mainly because my bathrooms are the last bit of the house that is in need of major upgrades). Sure, there were plenty of gorgeous kitchen appliances... but the bathroom looks to be the next frontier in design, with examples from luminaries like Philippe Starck...
...especially the high-end toilets, including Kohler's $6,400 Numi, which has remarkable features: a personalized bidet, deodorizer function, smart flush technology, which senses exactly how much water is needed to eliminate what you've er, eliminated.
You can program it to display ambient lighting, play mood music, heat the seat, and heat the floor.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have the killer app that would tempt me to pay that kind of money for a toilet: until they market one that thorougly cleans itself, I ain't buying.